Bmore Bikes You Tube Twitter Facebook Group

Cars Favored Over Bikes in District 1


March 5th, 2014 | Categories: Infrastructure, People | 7 comments

Contributed by Greg Hinchliffe

In 2010, District 1 Baltimore City Councilman Jim Kraft approached the Department of Transportation to develop a plan addressing the increasing transportation demands in southeast Baltimore.  Rather than looking exclusively at a ‘parking plan’ to increase on-street parking availability, DOT began an extensive traffic analysis and community input process to develop the Southeast Baltimore Complete Streets Master Plan (CSMP).  The Complete Streets Plan not only looked at opportunities to provide reverse-angled parking, but also bike lanes, cycletracks, pedestrian improvements and reallocating pavement space for public parks.

A sharrow on Fait Avenue barely survives a utility improvement, but bicycle traffic legally prohibited from continuing eastbound.

A sharrow on Fait Avenue barely survives a utility improvement, but bicycle traffic legally prohibited from continuing eastbound.

By taking both a block-by-block and corridor-based approach, each street evaluation balanced residential preference with how the street functioned within the entire street network. After its completion, the Southeast Baltimore Complete Streets Master Plan received positive reviews from city agencies, neighborhood leaders and residents.  Since then however, none of the recommendations in the plan have been implemented.  Despite crafting the master plan, Department of Transportation ignored the recommendations and continued accommodating city streets only for automobile traffic and parking.

The first bike infrastructure casualty of auto proliferation and parking was on Bank Street in Highlandtown, an integral part of the signed “Greektown Bike Route”, which acts as a bike boulevard-style passage from Haven Street in the east to Central Avenue in Little Italy, in conjunction with paths through Patterson Park.  To complete this route, the Departments of Recreation and Parks and Transportation collaborated to construct a path within Patterson Park, connecting an existing park path to Bank Street and Ellwood Street.  This designated bike route proved to be very popular with neighborhood cyclists, yet it and the proposed traffic calming improvements in the CSMP were ignored in favor of installing reverse angle parking.   DOT’s Traffic Division, which oversees all traffic patterns, pavement markings and signal operations, implemented the reverse angle parking without consulting other DOT Divisions, including the city’s bicycle planner, making a portion of the route unusable. Fortunately, the bicycle planner was able to modify the route to restore continuity, although the new route is less direct and convenient.

A sharrow is ground away, but the “Share The Road” sign remains, which now faces the wrong direction.

A sharrow is ground away, but the “Share The Road” sign remains, which now faces the wrong direction.

This pattern of auto proliferation continued with the eradication of another bike boulevard-type signed route in Canton:  Fait Avenue, which is a vital link in the “Brewers Hill Bike Route”.  Like Bank Street, Fait Avenue was converted from a two-way bike boulevard to a one-way reverse parking corridor.  The two way bike route abruptly stops without any bicycle wayfinding signs.  Again, the route can be modified to restore continuity, but this has not occurred to date, leaving a confusing and possibly unsafe situation.

In a November 14th, 2013 letter, Councilman Kraft has called for a ‘new’ southeast traffic study.  Even though the CSMP accounted for all planned developments in the area including Harbor Point and Canton Crossing, Mr. Kraft is calling for a new traffic study and widening Boston Street to accommodate automobile traffic. No mention is made of accommodating bicycle traffic.  A true Complete Streets vision of Boston Street is planned to coincide with Red Line improvements, but that project will not be complete for almost a decade.  Pressuring City Hall to bump up the widening of Boston Street without any accommodation of bicyclists threatens the intent of the CSMP to make what could be most bikeable area of the city into the least hospitable environment for bikes.

The potential eastbound bicycle route on Foster Avenue, one block north of Fait Avenue, also was converted to one-way with reverse angle parking.  The centerline pavement marking was removed creating a 1” deep groove which is a significant hazard to cyclists.

The potential eastbound bicycle route on Foster Avenue, one block north of Fait Avenue, also was converted to one-way with reverse angle parking. The centerline pavement marking was removed creating a 1” deep groove which is a significant hazard to cyclists.

As the average rowhome in Southeast Baltimore is typically narrower than the length of an automobile, accommodating every household with on-street parking for one or more vehicles is an unattainable goal.  Similarly, we just do not have enough roadway to accommodate moving every citizen of the city and its suburbs in single occupancy motor vehicles. Providing for more walkable, bikeable and transit friendly communities is essential, and can only be achieved after the elected officials and DOT staff understand this basic spatial analysis.

Any further “improvements” to Southeast Baltimore to increase traffic flow or parking must include provision for through and local bicycling, as required by the Complete Streets Policy and Bicycle Master Plan, both of which have been enacted by the City Council and signed by the Mayor. At the least, the loss of bicycle accommodation to increase traffic flow or parking must stop.  Anything else is a disservice to the present and future citizens of Baltimore.

Greg Hinchliffe is a long-time Baltimore bike pest, former chair of the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee and active member of the East Coast Greenway Alliance.  In other words, Greg’s got serious bike-cred!


  • Buckley

    One way angle parking is the new crack epidemic in southeast Baltimore.

  • PedestrianError

    Another ongoing problem plaguing Southeast Baltimore’s streets is DOT’s ongoing campaign to speed up motor vehicle travel times by replacing automatic walk cycles with beg buttons.

  • Andrew

    So Greg, is anyone contacting Jim Kraft’s office regarding this matter? If not, what else is being done?

  • Whatevs

    Does it matter if cyclists are just going to keep weaving in and out of cars at stop lights and driving straight down the middle of the road against one way traffic? Or decide on their own they want to ride on the sidewalk or the street. Too many offenders to garner much sympathy.

  • VictoryG

    I agree about the offenders. However I also believe that the cyclists are not being given a good set of rules to ride by. Adhering to motor vehicle rules is not the best way or appropriate in many circumstances. Do you notice how semi trucks have different rules than cars? Not all rules are different, but some are, and they address the inherent difference between the operation characteristics of the vehicle.

  • VictoryG

    Just want to point out that the street in the picture above is plenty wide enough to accommodate one-way car traffic and two-way bike traffic. Just because the cars can only go one way doesn’t mean that bikes can’t have a lane going the other way. This is in common practice in dozens of cities that use cars.

  • Greg Hinchliffe

    Andrew, there are some conversations going on, but it is very important for everybody to keep the pressure on BCDOT through their elected representatives. VictoryG, it would be nice if improved infrastructure would make scofflaw cyclists behave more responsibly, but I’m not holding my breath. Americans don’t like to follow rules, especially traffic rules. Stand at any stop sign and count the drivers who make a full stop, then compare that miniscule number with the number of drivers on cell phones. Whatevs, we are not looking for sympathy, just the safe bike/ped infrastructure that is supposedly city policy. VictoryG, while the angle parking leaves plenty of room for “salmoning” against the flow of traffic, and it is common and legal in Europe (when signed), I am not ready to officially recommend it. And PedestrianError, don’t get me started on beg buttons.

 

 


The views and opinions on this website are those of the author and not of the City of Baltimore or the Department of Transportation. For official Baltimore City DOT news, please visit this page.